Have you experienced a bump in the road?
Did life go a totally different way than you had planned or expected?
Has that unplanned event in your life shaped you who you are today?
Life is a series of detours.
For a long time, my detour felt like a dead-end. After 27 surgeries and six years unable to eat or drink, I didn’t know where my life was going anymore. As my stitches healed by one, my thoughts seemed to unravel day by day. My detour took me to a very scary place, into a new body and a new mind, troubled by Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome – PTSD. Not only had I woken up in a new body, I now had a mind troubled with anxious thoughts, associations and memories.
The path was long-winded, scary and challenging. When you don’t know where you’re going, its stressful and anxiety-provoking. You can feel very alone.
But we’re not alone at all. On that note, I’d like to introduce Julia, the Detourist for this week’s Why Not Wednesday. Julia has a very inspiring, powerful story and I want to truly thank her for being so raw, open and beautifully honest. Please comment and share your support. Detourists are brave, bold, and stronger after their “curve in the path”, andJulia is an extraordinary example…
My name is Julia and I’m a Detourist.
Traveling and depression: a reminder of why I’m fighting
If you looked at my bookshelf you might become somewhat confused. The main things aren’t books but keepsakes which may seem illogical or irrelevant to an outsider. A Spanish pocket-lexicon, an IB-badge, pearl necklaces, key rings in the shape of telephone boots and double-deckers. But for me those items symbolize everything I fight for.
There’s no tragic background to my depression, I can’t put my finger on what caused it. My childhood was not more painful than anyone else’s; sure, I had my problems with being bullied, my parents split up, I had my share of heartbreak (but what 15-year old doesn’t?). But that’s life. I can’t even say when it started, over time I just saw less and less joy in life. Things I used to enjoy became difficult and energy consuming. I pretended to be fine but I cried in the school bathroom every recess, took 2 hour naps after school, and still slept 10 hours every night.
Thankfully a teacher of mine picked up the signs. She made me go to the school nurse/psychologist and kept an eye on me. Things didn’t get better but at least I became more and more stable, felt less and less. Sadness did no longer overwhelm me however I also stopped feeling happiness. After being in pain for years numbness was somewhat of a relief.
After struggling with my depression for 6 years I finally went to the doctor; who prescribed me medication to help with my anxiety and got me started with CBT. The road wasn’t smooth after that, but I received some energy to fight with.
A turning point
I’ve always wanted to see the world; go explore new things, new cultures. My depression had taken every ounce of willpower from me. Hence, travelling became my goal. In August I sat in an airplane on my way to London, alone. I will work against my mind for years – but that trip was a major step on the way.
I bought the keychains in a little shop near my hotel there. They symbolize the strength and freedom I felt.
The Spanish-lexicon was a gift from my parents, for a school trip we made to Spain.
My sister made me the necklaces as a graduation gift and the IB pin is the result of 3 years of blood, sweat, and tears (figuratively). Every time I look at it I remember how proud I was when I held my diploma for the first time.
There are still days when I don’t feel like I’ll be able to get out of bed. But then I look at those things, and think about all the places I want to see, all the people I care about, and all the people who care about me. It helps.
Travel brought me through some rough times and by traveling I finally started listening to myself; I began to think about what I wanted and needed. For me to get better that was a huge thing.
Fighting the stigma
I’m a high-achieving girl, always have been, so it was incredibly difficult for me to accept that I wasn’t well. Had my teacher not forced me to seek help, I wouldn’t have gone. I’m scared of thinking about how my life would be if she hadn’t. She was not scared of seeing my pain and talking about it. And that meant the world to me.
Something I’ve experienced is that people are afraid of asking me about my issues, because they’re afraid they might trigger something. After graduating the school psychologist told me a classmate of mine had told her that he/she was worried about me. Hearing that I just cried. I had felt invisible for months, felt like no one even saw me. And there someone had seen but just not talked to me. Even an “I’m worried about you, are you getting the help you need?” would have made me less lonely. Depression isn’t contagious and asking me about it is not going to trigger a “bad day”.
Depression is like war; you either win – or die trying. The only thing that scares me about depression is the lack of knowledge and fear of asking. Because you can’t change anything if you don’t speak about it. My depression isn’t my personality – but can’t get rid of it if I pretend like nothing’s wrong.
When I was younger I had my life all planned out; everything from what college to attend to when I would have kids, even what songs I wanted to be played at my funeral. My depression took me on a detour, and the thing with detours is that they are unexpected and force us to take another road than we originally planned to.
My detour made me realize that I’m more resilient than I ever would have thought, but also humility. In society we have a tendency to guilt and blame people who lose the fight against depression, I’ve heard people talk about “selfishness”. Suicide isn’t about being selfish – it is about being in so much pain you can’t even breathe. It is about feeling that the people you love would be better off without you. Until you’ve cried on the floor because the thought of going up and getting ready is overwhelming, you can’t possibly understand.
My detour taught me not to judge the actions of others, because you never know what is going on inside. The waitress with a huge smile might have been crying in the bathroom 5 minutes earlier. You never know.
That is why…I #LoveMyDetour.
Julia is a traveler, writer, quizup champion (at least in Harry Potter trivia), frequent visitor at her local library, and person. She is still battling depression, but it looks as if she’s winning this fight. The wish to know everything is motivating Julia to get into medical school, become a doctor – and fight the stigma associated with mental illnesses. Check her blog at http://www.aglutenfreeroad.com/
Thanks Julia! I had the pleasure of guest posting on her wonderful blog. Definitely check it out!
If you’re healing from something difficult…
See my Mental Health Resource Directory, with plenty of places to get support, guidance and advice –be sure to write me with your own helpful links. Or you can learn about my own college mental health advocacy program here.
If you’d like to share…
A detour can be life-altering crisis or a minute-altering change of plans. The exact path doesn’t matter – it’s just the idea that we all need to cope with things we can’t don’t expect. Learn what a Detourist is here, and then learn how to share your story here.
Check out the other travelers!
Imagine the most difficult time in your life. Which way did you turn? How did you know it was the right way to go? Or did you know at all?
Did you just trust it would lead somewhere?
Why Share? Because…
Together we’re stronger.
I also invite you to read about my friend Danielle’s inspiring detour, and her story of overcoming depression.
What’s your detour?